The Importance of Leadership

D. Quinn Mills Leadership How to Lead, How to Live
© 2005 D. Quinn Mills. All Rights Reserved.

It enables a not-for-profit organization to fulfill its mission. an election. It makes a business organization successful. The effective leadership of parents enables children to grow strong and healthy and become productive adults. change the course of events. Much of the literature about organizations stresses decision-making and implies that if decision-making is timely. After a decision is made. Problems of implementation are really issues about how leaders influence behavior. and lose their way. and correct. so we participate in a contest. 10 . Without leadership. and overcome resistance. to choose the best candidate. but that a poor leader can ruin even the best plan. Each of us recognizes the importance of leadership when we vote for our political leaders. then things will go well. The absence of leadership is equally dramatic in its effects.Leadership: How to Lead. We realize that it matters who is in office. Investors recognize the importance of business leadership when they say that a good leader can make a success of a weak business plan. an organization faces the problem of implementation—how to get things done in a timely and effective way. Effective leadership helps our nation through times of peril. organizations move too slowly. stagnate. How to Live Few things are more important to human activity than leadership. complete. Yet a decision by itself changes nothing. Leadership is crucial in implementing decisions successfully.

they help us visualize what we might achieve.The Importance of Leadership Who Will Gain from Leadership? Do you want to be a leader? Or. You should read this book if: • • You are interested in leadership and how it affects you. and behaviors of others. • • The Meaning of Leadership What is leadership? It is a process by which one person influences the thoughts. they help us see what lies ahead. Leadership is the 11 . if you’re already a leader. Leadership helps to point us in the same direction and harness our efforts jointly. they encourage us and inspire us. Without leadership a group of human beings quickly degenerates into argument and conflict. You plan to lead an organization or are already in a leadership position. You wish to make a difference in the world through leadership. because we see things in different ways and lean toward different solutions. You are interested in developing yourself to meet the challenges you will confront in a leadership role. attitudes. Leaders set a direction for the rest of us. do you want to improve your leadership? Do you want to affect what other people do—to help them accomplish important goals? Do you want to point the way in your organization? Do you want to climb the promotion ladder to positions of higher authority and greater pay? Leadership will make these things possible.

which is merely a form of pretending. they posture as if they are setting direction and inspiring others. Winston Churchill was a real and great leader. How to Live ability to get other people to do something significant that they might not otherwise do. Yet often they are merely pretending. during the 1930s Winston Churchill urged his fellow Englishmen to face the coming threat from Hitler’s Germany. We refer to a person “leading” a parade. At this point Churchill was acclaimed for his foresight. 12 . and became prime minister of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. There’s an old saying that the way to become a leader is to find a parade and run to the front of it. then being at the front of the line is merely a way to pretend to be a leader. however. They were engaged in wishful thinking about the future and denial that the future would be dangerous. For example. He had very few followers. It’s energizing people toward a goal. But there are also people who wish to appear to be leaders. During this period almost all Englishmen accepted his leadership willingly. They say that they are leading others. But most Englishmen preferred to believe that Hitler could be appeased—so that a war could be avoided. They resented Churchill for insisting that they must face the danger. but walking at the front isn’t really leadership unless the person in front is actually choosing the direction! If the person isn’t choosing the direction. although followers may only come after a long wait. a leader isn’t a leader. True leadership is sometimes hard to distinguish from false leadership. They rejected his leadership.Leadership: How to Lead. but aren’t actually. Without followers. But finally reality intruded—Germany went too far and war began.

The Work of the Leader Taking a leadership position means several things: A leader must have a vision of the future for the organization and its members. The Importance of Ethics The danger that leadership will be perverted is why ethics are so important to good leadership. Ethics are the inner compass that directs a person toward what is right and fair. but put them to terrible uses. but he set an evil direction. Sometimes people in business use leadership skills to exploit others. Only if a person has an inner ethical compass can he or she be sure that leadership qualities will not turn to evil ends. Hitler seemed to be a leader of the German people.The Importance of Leadership Leadership can be used for good or ill. we go forward. will put leadership to noble ends. Leadership skills can be perverted to pursue bad ends. Sometimes people in charitable organizations use leadership skills to benefit themselves rather than the people they are supposed to help. So let us say that those who do harm are not leaders at all. good readers of this book. we recognize that they may be influential and persuasive. Learning to lead with good objectives is the only purpose of this book. He had great leadership skills. but we will not think of them as leaders. With confidence that you. 13 .

Leadership: How to Lead. as well. (See Executive Summary 1-1. and will commit themselves no more than the leader does. to the organization. A leader can’t be committed one day and uninterested the next. Accepting recognition for success. but for his or her followers. People will judge a leader by his or her commitment. 14 . How to Live EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 1-1 TAKING A LEADERSHIP POSITION Taking a leadership position means: • • Having a vision about what can be accomplished. • • • A leader must be able to express his or her vision clearly and in a compelling manner so that others are engaged by it. and to the members of the organization. Taking responsibility for the accomplishment of the mission and the welfare of those you lead. A leader assumes a considerable amount of responsibility— not just for the mission that he or she urges others to accept. nor just for the organization he or she heads. Making a commitment to the mission and to the people you lead.) A leader has to make a commitment to his or her vision. their lives and efforts. Assuming risk of loss and failure.

15 . If there is no risk. little leadership is required. In most organizations. and the less exposure to men and women who are in combat. In so doing. The chief executive of a company usually plays more of a leadership role than people at lower levels of the hierarchy in the firm. The officers who have responsibility for commanding soldiers in combat have the greatest leadership challenge. Offered an opportunity to leave his assignment in combat. then many people will quail before the challenge and leadership is necessary to get people to make the commitment and the effort to succeed. and probably will.The Importance of Leadership A leader assumes risk. for they must get others to risk their lives. the less exposure he has to the battlefield.000 soldiers. and for a very good reason. The higher on the job ladder a person is. If the effort is easy and certain to succeed. Michael Jordan’s brother is an army sergeant major leading a deployment in Iraq in which he is responsible for more than 2. however. It is the same in notfor-profits and government agencies. In the military the greatest leadership challenge is to get other people to risk their lives in combat. Generally. “lead” it. he chose to stay with his unit in harm’s way. he accepted one of the military’s most significant leadership challenges. the opposite holds true. anyone can. the higher one goes in the chain of command. the more she is expected to exhibit leadership. In the military. one associates high levels of leadership with high levels of authority. But where the effort entails a risk of failure.

a mission. it must adapt 16 . and buy-in is crucial to motivating action. a vision cannot be rigid and unchanging.) The visionary leader must create his or her concept of what the organization can accomplish. an exciting mission. and much broader when the group of people is large. How to Live The first responsibility in a position of leadership is to have a vision. evolve. The vision may be smaller when the group of people is small. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 1-2 VISIONARY LEADERSHIP Visionary leadership requires: • • Creating a vision. Helping an organization grow. • • The leader must also provide a mission—what needs to be done—and a strategy. for how to accomplish the mission and achieve the vision. and adapt to changing circumstances. A leader must clearly communicate them. Finally. A business leader may be leading a few people in a department or an entire company. a military leader a small squad or an entire army. Motivating action. But having an exciting vision. a path. Communicating the vision/mission/strategy and getting buy-in. but it must be forward-looking and exciting in either case. a way for the group to get there. Only if people grasp the vision can they commit to it. and a strategy.Leadership: How to Lead. (See Executive Summary 1-2. and a careful strategy is not sufficient.

A manager has the broadest role. an administrator can be effective in his job without being a leader. growing and evolving. The administrator is a bureaucrat— whether in government or in business—a person who keeps careful records and sees that things are done according to the rules. regulations. and loses its power to excite and motivate people. management requires a special set of skills of its own. manager. 17 . and leader. a leader can be effective without being an administrator—leaving rules.The Importance of Leadership to changing circumstances. but it is almost as important. A manager needs to set direction and inspire others to get work done (leadership functions) and he or she needs to keep records and see that rules are followed (administrative functions). And being a manager is different from being a leader. as we shall see below. Leaders versus Administrators and Managers Leadership is not the same thing as being in a position of authority. and their enforcement to others. So there are three roles: administrator. Otherwise it becomes outdated and obsolete. The success of organizations depends to a great degree on how well they are administered. It is possible to be a boss in a company without being a leader. On the other hand. and a good manager has much of an administrator and a leader in him or her. A boss can be more of an administrator than a leader. Conversely. A manager is often thought to be primarily an administrator. But a manager is not an administrator. Administration is not as exciting a topic as leadership.

Quinn Mills. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 1-3 ELEMENTS OF ADMINISTRATION The elements of administration are: • • Making rules and regulations Making decisions that apply and interpret rules and regulations Keeping records Filling out forms • • 18 . Administrators What does an administrator do? (See Executive Summary 13.Leadership: How to Lead. Waltham. the key rules and regulations are often issued by legislative authorities like the U. Congress). (In the government. He or she keeps records and fills out forms necessary to take administrative steps (like getting employees paid or reimbursing an employee for travel expenses). How to Live The manager is a necessary combination of leader and administrator.S. MA: MindEdge Press.) An administrator applies rules and regulations generally developed by top executives of an organization. (See D.) But leadership is the most important of the three roles. 2005. Principles of Management.

ensuring that they are doing the right things. Because of over-management and overadministration. This is a substantial criticism that points to the importance of leadership. and not-for-profit organizations) tend to be over-managed (and/or over-administrated) and under-led. Finally.) He or she makes plans and creates budgets that set forth in great detail how something will be accomplished and how much money and other resources (e.. The core of the criticism in the literature is that organizations of all sorts (corporations. In general. change. by combining these tasks into a coherent whole. that no money is being misappropriated or wasted (we call this “controlling”). There is a large literature discussing the differences between leaders and managers. so it tends to be a higher calling than administration or management. Leadership is more important and more demanding for most people. 19 . Running an organization effectively requires administration. organizations are slow to make necessary changes and achieve less than what they could. There is also an important distinction to make between leaders and administrators. management. government agencies. and leadership. people. even critical. a leader takes a broader view and points an organization toward necessary. Leadership is ordinarily in shorter supply than administrative or managerial competence. the manager makes the organization operate efficiently. She supervises the actions people take. office space) are necessary to accomplish those plans and budgets. He decides who is going to be assigned to the necessary tasks and how they will fit into the organization.g. and when problems arise she helps to resolve them. Fewer people are able or willing to be leaders.The Importance of Leadership Managers What does a manager do? (See Executive Summary 1-4.

• 20 . and complex. A trait closely linked to leadership is charisma. It involves getting things done.Leadership: How to Lead. subtle. movie actors and sports figures) are not leaders. How to Live EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 1-4 ELEMENTS OF MANAGEMENT The elements of management are: • • • • • • • Planning and budgeting Setting direction Organizing and staffing Aligning the efforts of many people Controlling Decision-making and problem solving Motivating and inspiring people The Nature of Leadership True leadership is special. Leadership is not primarily a set of important objectives. Too often we confuse things like personal style and a position of authority with leadership. • Leadership is not primarily a particular personality trait. but many people who have charisma (for example.

formal position. Jr. “ he wrote. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. but it is not limited to any of them. Secondly. simple and compassionate man. a formal position. the Lord Protector of England during the English civil wars of the seventeenth century. There have been great leaders who did not hold high positions—for example. important objectives. and Jeanne d’Arc—and there are people who hold high positions who are not leaders at all. Kotter. Many leadership manuals suggest that what defines leadership is things such as delegating and providing inspiration and vision. (See John P. “—that is. and a particular set of behaviors. What Leaders Really Do. a visionary and a romantic. “There was no single Cromwell. Leadership is not primarily a set of behaviors. and some effective leaders don’t do them all. each linked to the other by his enormous vitality…Firstly.The Importance of Leadership • Leadership is not primarily a formal position. Writing about Oliver Cromwell. there was the very human. It’s a process by which one influences the thoughts and behaviors of others in a substantial way. 1999. Effective leaders are often very complex people. It may involve charisma. a clear-cut individual…Instead. the man of expedients who had no guiding principles. but people who are not leaders can do these things. important objectives. Martin Luther King. the calculating politician. a foremost historian marveled at the complexity of his personality. • Many discussions of leadership confuse any and all of the above— personality. there was the resolute and iron-willed general…Fourthly.) But leadership is more than any of the above characteristics. Thirdly. specific behaviors—with leadership. 21 . there was a violent. but administrators who don’t want to rock the boat. boisterous and irascible bully. there was a multiplicity of Cromwells.

(Read the inspiring story in Rich Teerlink and Lee Ozley. was capable of committing any atrocity. the challenge of continuing to improve seemed even more daunting. Fuller. changes necessary? He did it by building a different company. we must be careful in our generalizations about leaders and their personalities. the company’s leader. Examples of Leadership Leadership in Business In the 1980s Harley-Davidson was almost knocked out of business by competition from other firms.) Because leaders can be so complex. but with the pressure off. p. it needed to change dramatically. 110.Leadership: How to Lead. dead ends and breakthroughs. A Military History of the Western World.” (J. was able to save the firm financially. More Than a Motorcycle: The Leadership Journey at Harley-Davidson. F. as the interpreter of God’s will. Rich Teerlink. there was…the Cromwell…who. advances and setbacks. New York: Funk & Wagnalls. Could Teerlink get his managers and employees to make the significant. Volume 2. ending in a much stronger company than before. It’s a story of successes and failures. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. C. To survive. and to many of them inconvenient. But not all leaders are such complex personalities. 1955. one driven from the bottom up by employees rather than from the top down by managers. How to Live And lastly.) 22 . 2000. which is good for most of us who aspire to leadership.

the agency had the largest customer base—and the lowest approval rating—of any institution in America. Rossotti became commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in 1997. the IRS was widely dismissed as a hopelessly flawed and dysfunctional organization. Rossotti— the first businessperson to head the IRS—transformed the much-maligned agency.The Importance of Leadership Leadership in Government When Charles O. 2005. and beset by profound management and technology problems. Rossotti demonstrated leadership against daunting odds.) 23 . frank exchanges with taxpayers and employees. encounters with Washington bigwigs. Many Unhappy Returns: One Man's Quest to Turn Around the Most Unpopular Organization in America. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. Rossotti. Mired in scandal. he effected dramatic changes in the way the IRS did business—while the agency continued to collect $2 trillion in revenue. In the glare of intense public scrutiny. (Read this enlightening story in Charles O. caught in a political maelstrom. Through heated congressional hearings. and risky turnaround strategies.